Week 4 of the Grand European Tour
Week 4 – Day 25 – Monday 23rd October 2017
Tregastel to Cléder – 66 miles
The Aire at Tregastel is just across the road from the entrance to a massive Super U so before setting off for our drive we nipped in to top up on the usual provisions. I say we, but the responsibility for getting the supplies in fell to moi, the hunter gatherer, as, at the entrance The Navigator spotted another ‘La Laverie’ and decided to freshen up things that needed freshening up.
Once on the road we headed off in the general direction of Cléder, just over an hour away to an Aire we knew we could hook up to electricity. The need for a hook up once in a while is required to charge the batteries for our electric bikes, use the lap top connected as the battery only lasts a couple of hours and I need the lap top to do some technical bits to the Blog that can’t be done with a tablet or smartphone. When all of the technical stuff is done we usually watch a film via Netflix, or more likely, a couple of episodes of ‘Better Call Saul’, the prequel spin-off series from Breaking Bad which is funny, well written, well acted and well worth watching.
Cléder is a one horse village, or to be more accurate, a one alpaca village with a long rocky sandy beach and little else. The sort of place French families flock to in their droves during the peak summer holiday months but the need to finish last weeks Blog and the drizzle prevented us from getting sand in our toes. (see what I did there Jenna?).
Week 4 – Day 26 – Tuesday 24th October 2017
Cléder to Plouescat – 16 miles
The drizzle had relented but it was still a grey breezy morning with dampness in the air so after a short walk to the beach and servicing the van we set off in true Man Van style with No Plan for the day. I love hugging the coast and seeing beaches, rocky foreshores and little fishing harbours. Not far along the coast, and hardly in top gear (or so it seemed), we came to one such rocky sandy beach so typical of this area with an inviting huge layby so we stopped, had a walk and lunch before moving on along the coast.
Yesterday the original plan was not to stop at Cléder, but the intended stopover was Plouescat and before we knew it we were there. The Aire, if you can call it that, was a divided off part of a car park with no facilities at all apart from rubbish bins. We parked up, not really sure if we would stay the night and set off for a walk, and what a walk it was, around the headland clambering over some huge rocks that were surely put there there to be clambered over, then along a wide sandy beach that would be busy in the summer with visitors and the residents of all the shuttered up holiday cottages overlooking the beach.
After spending hours walking in the mild conditions, even enjoying the fly-over of a low flying swing-wing fighter aircraft, we decided to stay the night, later to be joined by two of the worst looking tatty motorhomes I had ever seen, covered in green mould, one without a back bumper so was devoid of any rear lights and indicators whatsoever!
Week 4 – Day 27 – Wednesday 25th October 2017
Plouescat to Audierne – 75 miles
A damp and grey morning with a heavy dew greeted us this morning and after some bacon butties we set off after the significant decision to head south rather than continue west along the north Brittany coast. This southwards leg will take us hundreds of miles down the west coast of France, over the Pyrenees, through mountainous Andorra and see the Mediteranean somewhere north of Barcelona, or maybe not now. Thats the outline, if not an actual plan! After a pitstop at a Lidl en route we skirted Douarnenez and arrived at Audierne, a fishing port built on the estuary of the River Goyen.
In preparing for this trip I researched potential stopovers online via a number of websites, but mostly www.campercontact.com which I found to be the best. As well as giving details of the facilities, cost, etc, etc it also gives a link to Goggle Maps and the sites co-ordinates which I then cut and paste into a running list of potential stopovers. By looking at the location on Google Maps you can then quickly see the satellite view to get a better understanding of the area. The satellite view looked good but the reality was much better.
On Campercontact it says it is free, but not for much longer as there is a brand new bourn just fitted and the charge will be €7 going forward for all facilities. It wouldn’t accept my credit card so we had a free night and this saving was reinvested on 2 Leffe Blonde lagers at a quayside bar in town.
Back at the van we sat out in the evening sunshine and had a conversation with an elderly local couple we shared a bench with. About 100 yards to our left was an Aqua Show building which contained seals and other assorted sealife but about 4.30 we could see the visitors assembling on a tiered seating area and surprisingly for an Aqua Show the performance was actually by birds of prey! We could see quite clearly a variety of birds flying backwards and forwards as well as the herons and white egrets in the estuary in front of us. Just as the performance was drawing to a close there was a bit of a drama when a white tailed eagle decided to abscond and fly off, not far, but enough to have the staff in an obvious panic. After flying about for a bit it settled on the chimney stack of a house just behind the Aqua Show building and the eagle eyed (boom boom) can make it out in this picture. After about half an hour it had had enough fun and flew back to its handler.
Week 4 – Day 28 – Thursday 26th October 2017
Audierne to Concarneau – 53 miles
Its another foggy day in Greendale / Audierne and I can hardly see the estuary right in front of the van, so, as there was little point in moving due to the lack of visibility we had a lazy morning then lunch. Soon after we decided to head for Concarneau and find the Aire, park up and have a walk about this lovely town, dominated by the old walled area which guards the entrance to the harbour. That achieved, we would be in prime position for the fairly large Friday morning market, but, as the old saying goes ‘the best laid plans of mice and men’…
On the drive, which took us inland away from the coast the fog lifted and it was a great drive in the sunshine. We skirted around Quimper (Falkirk’s twin town back in the day, but not now) and about 6 miles before Concarneau I spotted the sign for La Forêt-Fouesnant, a place we knew very well having spent many family holidays there with les petits-enfants in the late 80s. When you see this following picture I wonder how we managed with the 4 of us in a 12’ caravan with an awning, pram, baby bath, boat (deflated!), table, chairs, high chair, BBQ etc etc all the way from Falkirk.
As the sun was shining brightly and it was warm I turned off and headed for one of the best beaches in Brittany to hopefully have our second lounge on a beach of the trip. I drove to the marina first which is absolutely massive now with so many new facilities including a handful of restaurants. The nearby campsite we stayed at every year, Camping de Kerleven was still there but again had grown massively with static caravans added as well as a restaurant, indoor pool and a huge play area for children. The boulangerie we used to get our croissants and baguettes from had gone but the pièce de résistance, the glorious beach, was still as we remembered it from 1988.
We parked the van, changed from our foggy weather clothes to shorts and t shirt (well I did anyway) and headed for the sand. The beach had an odd mix of people, more children than I was expecting due to the French half term holidays, but it was more the dress of the people that was odd, from anoraks, jumpers and scarves to very little on and people in the water. Concarneau could be seen in the distance through what I insisted was a heat haze, but the resident weather expert thought it was freezing fog! We managed a couple of hours on the tartan rug before the heat haze became too airy and we retreated back to the van.
Firing up the satnav for Concarneau, all was going well until we arrived at the Rue du Gare Aire / car park and found it crammed full of the huge big trailers that are used by the operators of travelling fairs, as unbeknown to us, and our satnav – a huge fair was in town. A quick search on Google gave us the co-ordinates for another free Aire slightly out of town to the south, but with a view of the fishing boats going in and out of the port. When we arrived it was still busy with people walking their dogs / children, or jogging in the adjoining woods which had lots of paths through the trees and along the waters edge. We had a walk through the mostly fir / pine / oak trees before settling in for the evening.
Week 4 – Day 29 – Friday 27th October 2017
Concarneau to Trevignon – 17 miles
This Aire in Concarneau was a good find and probably better than the town centre one we originally aimed for. It was free to stay but had a €4 charge to take on 10 minutes worth of water and 55 minutes of electricity. In the morning I had a chat with Ken, the only other Brit on the site, who was parked opposite us in his fantastic Concord, and, as it turned out, his permanent residence since selling his house back in the UK. Ken was more or less heading in the same direction as us, down the French west coast, into the Pyrenees then on to Spain and Portugal so we may bump into him again. As I was chatting away, household chores were being attended to by The Navigator before we set off back into Concarneau to what turned out to be a superb weekly market. French markets are something to behold and this was one of the better ones. Parking the van on the esplanade we walked back to the market and spent the morning there before wandering about the old medieval walled town known as the Ville Close. Historically, the Ville Close was a centre for shipbuilding but is now devoted to tourism with many restaurants and shops in its narrow streets.
Concarneau is one of the busiest fishing ports in France, renowned as a centre of Tuna fishing. We were lucky to be there on Bastille Day (14th of July) in 1988 as the usually business like fish market was transformed into a celebration of the sea, Soiree du Poisson, and there was music, great seafood to taste and a wonderful atmosphere on this national holiday.
In the early afternoon we drove all of 17 miles to a motorhome parking area on outskirts of Trevignon along the D1 coast road known as Le Corniche where we set up for the night along with one other van.
Week 4 – Day 30 – Saturday 28th October 2017
Trevignon – 0 miles
Woke around 7am and looked out the window to see stars and something very bright in the sky to the east, maybe a planet. Stars mean a clear sky and a clear sky could lead to a sunrise, so, with much grumbling from The Navigator, who wanted to sleep on, I got up and dressed in the darkness to set the GoPro up outside on the van’s wing-mirror to try a time-lapse recording of the sunrise. We decided to stay here another night as it is so peaceful right beside the beach and the opportunity of a BBQ this evening. This morning we got the bikes out and cycled along the coast to the village of Trevignon and found a typical small village boulangerie and bought a baguette and two different tart du pommes as a weekend treat. After cycling back we had a lunch of beef and mutton sausage with fried onions in the fresh baguette. Now I’ll grant you, that to many, the prospect of a beef and mutton sausage is not high on their must try one day list, you’ll have to take my word for it – they are delicious – a million times better than the Aldi 99p pork sausages I’m used to back home! We sunbathed in front of the van for a few hours and I flew the drone to (a) practice flying it and (b) try and capture an aerial view of our surroundings.
The real fun of the afternoon however was supplied by a couple in a German motorhome which parked in the CAR park next to this little motorhome Aire we were in. I emphasised CAR park as that is what it is, with entry by two wooden frames with height barriers to keep motorhomes out, after all we have our own space a few yards away. The German had however managed to squeeze in a gap from a side road and parked up to have a long lunch. What could possibly go wrong I hear you say, after all they would be on their way soon enough? Well a French car, either by accident or design, parked in such a way as to block the only way for the motorhome to get out. After much head scratching, our German chum came down to the car entrance nearest us with a tool bag and proceeded to try and dismantle the height barriers. He gave up after half an hour or so and retreated back to his van to await the return of the elderly French couple who had been away for a long walk along the coast, completely unaware of the little drama they had unwittingly caused. I was standing by with the GoPro to film events if he had attempted to leave through the barriers as he seemed fixated about the height without considering the gap was too narrow to get through!
After over an hour of speculation for us and our French neighbours, they were able to get on their way after the return of the French couple, with maybe a lesson learned. Looking at the above picture – how good is this for a FREE 2 night stopover?
A BBQ and a bottle of rioja finished off a perfect day – perfectly.
Week 4 – Day 31 – Sunday 29th October 2017
Trevignon – Quiberon – 70 miles
Sunday was very different from Saturday. Firstly the weather was very different, no sunrise, just a slab of grey clouds overhead so I was glad to have seen and captured the sunrise the day before. Secondly the clocks had changed overnight to keep the hours difference with the UK. Up to this morning it has been dark till at least 8.30am and on the overcast days even later, but now it was getting light about 7.30. On a journey of 6 months there is no real need to get up and start driving in the dark so by the time it is daylight, we’ve had a shower then breakfast, it has been an event to set off before 10am.
We set off from this great little site to head for Quiberon, some 70 miles away, stopping briefly for some diesel and a few groceries at an InterMarche on the way. It was a fairly uneventful drive, a fair proportion on empty dual carriageway before turning off for Quiberon, 15 miles down the end of a peninsula, primarily known as a seaside resort for French tourists during the summer and for its history of sardine production. At one point the peninsula narrows to a man-made isthmus, overlooked by an old Fort, still of military importance today as a training base, but it also has a grisly past as during the Second World War the Fort was occupied by the German infantry. In July 1944, 59 resistance fighters were tortured and buried alive there. A Cross of Lorraine mounted on a stone pillar, with a plaque listing the names of the fighters stands there in memory of them.
Quiberon has another mega Municipal Aire which has the capacity for 120 vans and it was fairly busy for a Sunday night in late October. It is situated just over a mile out of town overlooking a rocky foreshore with cliffs. Once set up we had a walk back to a rocky outcrop where there was a restaurant, car park and lots of people clambering over the rocks and some fishermen risking their lives as the waves crashed in.
It was a bracing walk to say the least as the strong wind pushed the waves onto the rocks.
This week marks the 4th weekly Blog of our tour, the first full calendar month away from home, and over a month without watching a TV!
To put this week into context here is a map of our route…
NEXT WEEK – We continue southwards down the west coast of France and a few of the places we intend visiting are Carnac, Vannes and La Baule…
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